7 Things We Can Learn from Amazon’s Work Culture

When Jeff Bezos first launched Amazon in 1994, who knew that his online creation would spawn heated debates across the nation about America’s work ethic more than 20 years later? The recent expose by The New York Times on the Internet retail giant and its derisive and demanding work culture has initiated robust conversation about American’s love-hate relationship with work and achieving work-life balance. Response to the article was swift—The New York Times logged a record number of more than 6,600 comments —yet it did not appear to hurt the company’s bottom line. Amazon’s stock continues to rise and the company shows no signs of wavering, with imminent plans to increase its Seattle office footprint threefold.

Although Amazon’s Darwinian workforce selectivity seems unlikely to change anytime soon, could such a negative environment truly foster optimum results and creative talent? Various research and occupational studies suggest that Amazon could be shooting itself in the foot in terms of the long-term goals its CEO prides himself so much on. A wealth of information points instead to a happy and supportive workplace as more conducive to promoting better ideas and increased productivity.

Here are seven ways of doing things differently than Amazon:

1. Pushing out employees at the drop of a hat without more careful consideration can deprive companies of their best talent. According to the article, ranking employees based on mandatory cull quotas forces managers to dispose of valuable workers just to meet deadlines.

2. If high turn-over and burnout are common among your workforce, consider fixing the system instead of hiring new replacements. Forbes states that underlying problems typically go beyond being understaffed or inefficient. Weed out processes with too many steps, and streamline roles to enable employees to do their jobs better.

3. In several studies sleep deprivation is named as a productivity killer. The National Sleep Foundation links insufficient sleep to decreased performance, problems processing information, less vigilance, lowered motivation and increased moodiness. A high percentage of participants in the study also reported impaired concentration, inability handling stress and relating to others, difficulty in problem-solving and poor listening and decision-making skills. Long-term sleep deprivation is also associated with a number of health risks, including hypertension, diabetes, and obesity—serious medical conditions which could end up costing companies more in healthcare.

4. Neglecting accrued vacation days may actually sabotage workplace opportunities and performance. According to CNN, taking a vacation can increase productivity by 80 percent. Another study from Oxford Economics found that three-quarters of those surveyed reported feeling recharged and more focused after a vacation, and 41 percent said they felt less stressed. Americans work an estimated 1,836 hours per year, yet 42 percent of workers did not take a single vacation day in 2014. Employees might want to reconsider their hours spent in the office, since Project: Time Off found that employees who leave more than 11 days unused were 6.5 percent less likely to receive a bonus or raise. As if there were any more incentives to take a vacation, Robert Kriegel, author of How to Succeed in Business Without Working So Damn Hard, discovered that many workers are more apt to think outside the box when away from the office.

5. Providing better policies for pregnant employees is not only the right thing to do, but is also a smart business move. According to an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that when paid maternity leave is mandated, 91 percent of employers in California saw a boost in profits or no effect overall. The companies surveyed also noted increased productivity, higher morale and lower turnover. Considering the needs of female employees, in turn, leads to a well-rounded workforce with a diverse range of perspectives.

6. Many would consider a workplace filled with fear and distrust an unappealing environment. For the rest of us who don’t work at Amazon, a destructive or toxic office setting leads to three inevitable results, according to Inner Medicine Publishing. These include poor performance, employee health issues and loss of talented workers. Working in a situation with unrealistic expectations sets workers up for failure. Workplace bullying and gossip also fuel drama, which translates into lost productivity and detracts from business goals. If employees and managers are operating in a cloud of negativity, they lose the ability to see situations realistically and make sound decisions.

7. Passing up older employees for younger talent, or replacing workers who have family commitments with younger counterparts can actually prove to be detrimental. Maturity and experience are indispensable qualities, according to Entrepreneur.com. Older workers are also known to have better communication, organization, listening and detail-oriented skills. Business Insider also points to their leadership skills, loyalty and strong work ethic.

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